Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
The Zimbabwe Under-20 side for the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy tournament yesterday received a timely boost when investment giant Old Mutual came on board to become the Young Sables’ main sponsor ahead of the global showcase.
With Zimbabwe expected to host the World Rugby second tier Under-20 competition in seven weeks’ time, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union could not have asked for a better deal and a better partner.
This is not the first time that Old Mutual are sponsoring Zimbabwe rugby as they are also involved in the Community Cup and the Under-13, Under-17 and Under-18 sides that take part in the annual South African youth tournaments – the Grant Khomo Week and the two Craven Week festivals.
And yesterday Old Mutual indicated they were not only increasing their sponsorship package to the ZRU but also embracing the Under-20 side and will cover game development through the Tag Rugby Trust.
ZRU general manager, Sifiso Made, feels said this showed they were doing something right.
“Obviously as a Union we feel very encouraged to know that we have backers out there, people who see that we are doing something right, corporates who have trust in us, who support us in times like these.
“This is not only great for the ZRU but for the country as a whole because they have faith in us.
“Tag Rugby is not contact and run by Tag Rugby Trust Zimbabwe but that is game development and it’s good for us as well,” said Made.
Old Mutual group chief executive, Jonas Mushosho, yesterday unveiled this year’s sponsorship package for the Rugby Development programme.
“As a natural progression of our involvement in junior rugby, I’m pleased to inform you that Old Mutual will be the official sponsor of the Under-20 Young Sables at the 2016 World Rugby Under-20 Trophy that is scheduled for Harare from 19 April to 1 May,” said Mushosho.
The global second tier competition will feature eight countries – African champions Namibia, Spain, Hong Kong and the United States of America – who have been drawn in Group B while Uruguay, Fiji, Samoa and Zimbabwe make up Group B.
This will be the second time in the history of the tournament that the event will be held on African soil after Kenya hosted the 2009 edition.
“This is just an insight into what we are doing for rugby in Zimbabwe. We believe the future is bright and our commitment to the sport will open doors of opportunity to thousands of boys and girls.
“Old Mutual Zimbabwe’s relationship with rugby started in 2014, when, together with the Zimbabwe Rugby Union, we launched the Old Mutual Rugby Development Programme and the Old Mutual national schools select rugby sponsorship in 2014,” said Mushosho.
And this year’s sponsorship package brings more joy to the rugby fraternity as the integrated financial services firm said they are adding to their sponsorship package a number of communities that will participate in rugby development to 20.
“I am pleased to inform you that the number of communities this year will increase to 20, to include Chiredzi/Masvingo, Hwange, Chinhoyi and three more high density areas in and just outside Harare and Bulawayo.
“Another exciting development this year is the inclusion of Tag Rugby in our sponsorship. This covers boys and girls in the six to 12 years old age group and Old Mutual is delighted to once again partner with the Zimbabwe Rugby Union in support of rugby development in Zimbabwe,” said Mushosho.
Old Mutual are also involved in sponsoring other sporting activities such as tennis, junior cricket and athletics.
Sports and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane, who was the guest of honour, said they were trying to engage the responsible ministry to offer some tax incentives to companies that are sponsoring sport in the country.
The occasion was also attended by ZRU president John Falkenberg, chief executive Colleen De Jong and Tag Rugby Trust country manager Tinashe Shamu.
“I would like to congratulate Old Mutual for distinguishing itself among the many corporate players on the Zimbabwean market which is currently characterised by a depressed economic environment.
“As government, we envisage a situation whereby those companies who sponsor sport can get a return on their investment.
“In this regard, I am currently engaging my counterpart in the Ministry of Finance to offer some incentives or tax holidays to enable corporates like Old Mutual to recoup what they would have spent.
“This undoubtedly would attract many players into sponsoring sport,” said Hlongwane.